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“About Education: An American History Book” by Dr. Helen Smith – A Review

Education is important and everyone should be interested in it. There is no question that teachers and students are benefiting from an excellent education system. That is especially true in New York City where we rank second among American cities for spending on education. And, despite the recession, there has been no increase in the crime rate which indicates that the public clamor for more education is for the right reasons. We have also not seen an increase in the number of violent crimes but this can also be attributed to the worsening economic conditions across the country. There has been a renewed interest by parents in sending their children to parochial schools or private boarding schools as well.

about education

There is much evidence that indicates that teachers play a key role in molding the minds of children. Teachers help people learn, especially those who have the opportunity to work with them, whether on the playground, in classrooms, or in special programs. The role of teachers in helping people learn means that they thrive in high-need areas and they flourish in their communities.

One way that New York City teachers flourish is through the informal education system that has been in place for decades. Informal learning is a system of teaching students about many different topics by using a wide variety of tools and practices that do not include the use of textbooks or professional schooling. New York City teachers excel in this informal learning because they have the advantage of being able to interact with students, which is what helps them get things right in the classroom. For example, in the public school system, teachers are stuck with the rules of English grammar and language and reading texts from a text book. However, in a public school classroom, students are given space to roam and teachers have to deal with students on an individual basis, which can create tension and can lead to behavioral problems.

In my first published book, Getting Educated: Tips for Making Change happen, I suggested that teachers in New York City need to think differently. In my experience, this is absolutely true. When I teach in New York City public schools, I know firsthand that students need to be engaged with. They need to take part in the discussions and they need to learn by doing. In that same book, I mentioned that New York City is home to some of the most innovative educational practices in the country. I talked about the Smarter Every Day program, the Excel Challenges program and about the Great Place program.

All of these programs can help teachers in New York City strengthen their classrooms. Smarter Every Day provides teachers with resources that they can use to help people learn math easier, for free. Smarter Every Day also gives teachers a timeline for each lesson and a link to resources that teachers can access, along with an explanation of why a particular concept is important to learn. On top of that, Smarter Every Day helps teachers get outside of the classroom to speak with parents and students about concepts that they need to know more.

One of the things I really like about Smith’s latest book is that she tackles such a wide variety of topics. She takes on issues like poverty and class composition, racial and ethnic diversity in education, the teaching of reading to kids who may not even speak English, the importance of music in the curriculum and much more. I also like that she examines some of the challenges facing teachers today. One of the things I have found troubling as an educator is that we are not talking enough to our students about race, ethnicity and class. This book does fill that gap and I think it is something that New York teachers will find very useful.